News

Soldiers Seize Power in Guinea-Bissau, Disrupt Election

A picture taken on March 19, 2012 shows residents walking by the Parliament in Bissau.
A picture taken on March 19, 2012 shows residents walking by the Parliament in Bissau.

Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau have seized control of the capital just hours before campaigning was set to begin for a presidential run-off election. Sources say soldiers grabbed the interim president and the frontrunner presidential candidate, though the two men's whereabouts are unknown.  Residents say a tense calm has returned to the capital.  However deep divisions within the military mean further unrest is still a possibility.

Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau say they seized power late Thursday to prevent Angolan forces from attacking the nation's military.

The Military Command, as the still unidentified coup leaders are calling themselves, released a written statement Friday.  In it, they said they were in possession of a "secret document" which they allege authorizes a foreign military intervention that had been signed by Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and the interim President Raimundo Pereira.

Soldiers attacked Gomes' house Thursday night after they reportedly took Pereira into custody.

VOA's reporter in Bissau, Lassana Cassama, says a relative calm has returned to the capital Friday; however, soldiers are heavily deployed on the main roads downtown.  The coup has not garnered much popular support, he says, but many residents are afraid to speak publicly, or even leave their homes.

The Military Command is calling on the population to refrain from looting, vandalism or other disruptions to public order after a night of gun and mortar fire.

Soldiers seized TV and radio stations, Gomes' party headquarters and the downtown area. Electricity was cut, and residents, fearful of violence, huddled indoors.

Guinea-Bissau was set to hold a presidential run-off election on April 29.

Gomes emerged as the front-runner after the first round on March 18. He won 49 percent of the vote - just shy of the majority needed to avoid a run-off.

The Africa director at London-based think tank Chatham House, Alex Vines, said Gomes is seen as the so-called "candidate of Angola," which has been involved in military reform efforts in Guinea-Bissau.

"This has created problems inside Guinea-Bissau," he said.  "There have been over recent months increasingly hostile media commentary and sniping of the Angolans that they are partisan, that they are not even-handed.  That is the backstory to these allegations that the Angolans are supporting Mr. Gomes."

Just days before the coup, Angola had announced that it was pulling out a $30-million security sector reform mission to Guinea-Bissau.

Gomes has also pledged to overhaul the nation's large and unruly armed forces, as well as fight rampant drug trafficking on the nation's Atlantic coast.

Vines says many in the military did not want him to win.

"There are parts of the military that don't want reform," he said. "The reform of the Bissau military is an absolutely essential part of stabilizing the country and many have failed previously."

Gomes was to face ex-president, Kumba Yala, in the run-off election.  However, Yala had refused to participate in the second round after alleging that the first round was rigged.

Yala held a press conference Thursday just hours before the coup took place. He warned of "consequences" for anyone who tried to campaign.

Yala has strong ties to the military, which is dominated by his Balanta ethnic group.  The former president had been overthrown by a coup in 2003 after just three tumultuous years in power.

Fierce rivalries between military and political leaders in Guinea Bissau have sparked repeated coups, mutinies and assassinations, as well as a civil war in the late 1990s.  No elected president has finished his mandate since 1994.

Former president Malam Bacai Sanha died in January following a prolonged illness after just two years in power.

Regional bloc ECOWAS has condemned the apparent coup that comes just weeks after soldiers in Mali overthrew that country's democratically elected president.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs